A study of tides and currents in Cook Strait, New Zealand

Abstract

Greater Cook Strait (GCS) lies between the North and the South Islands of New Zealand. Its location at the convergence of the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates leads to interesting bathymetry with an adjacent shallow shelf and deep ocean trench as well as numerous crossing faults and complex shoreline geometry. Our purpose in this study is to examine tides and currents in GCS and, in particular, identify the major forcing mechanisms for the residual currents. Toward this end, we use an unstructured-grid numerical model to reproduce the tides and currents, verify these results with observations and then use the model to separate the various forcing mechanisms. The physical forcing includes nonlinear generation from tides and tidal currents, differences in sea level between the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea boundaries, density variations, wind stress and river discharge into GCS. Each of these mechanisms is important in different areas.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge Fraser Callaghan for his expertise in setting up the grids, Mark Hadfield for providing the salinity and temperature from which density was calculated, Geoffroy Lamarche for supplying gridded swath bathymetry of Cook Strait and Sanjay Wadhwa for generating Fig. 1 in ArcGIS. The project was partially funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Contracts C01X0401, C01X0812 and C01X0507).

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Correspondence to Roy A. Walters.

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Responsible Editor: Vincent Legat

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Walters, R.A., Gillibrand, P.A., Bell, R.G. et al. A study of tides and currents in Cook Strait, New Zealand. Ocean Dynamics 60, 1559–1580 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10236-010-0353-8

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Keywords

  • Tides
  • Currents
  • Residual currents
  • Cook Strait
  • Shallow water equations
  • Unstructured grid